Downtown Downer

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That may be true for people like Monty and Marlene Wilson, who own a home in Sedona and are in the Orpheum for the long haul. But it's certainly not true for everybody in the building.

Blame the Valley's real estate slump. Units are now selling for much less than some people paid a year ago. Smaller units had soared to more than $389,000 in the heady, early days of 2006. In the last year, they've dropped below $300,000. Residents who paid top price, and now have to add another $30,000 for parking, are almost certainly going to end up owing far more than they can get by selling.

Several residents said they can't keep up with the increase in the Orpheum's association fees. They hope to sell. But without guaranteed parking, and with cheaper options going on the market downtown, they fear it won't be easy.

One worried resident is Tony Pira. A photography student about to graduate from Arizona State, he lives with his partner, a flight attendant, in a 838-square-foot unit that he considered a good investment two years ago. But even with his partner's salary and Pira's stipend from the Air Force, they can't keep up with mounting costs.

"We felt like this would be a very comfortable living situation for us," Pira says. "We wouldn't be rich, but we wouldn't be at the point where we were eating Top Ramen, either."

They're at that point now. And with $305,000 left on their mortgage, it's disconcerting to see a bigger unit, one floor below, selling for $240,000.

There's no way they can add another $30,000 mortgage for a parking space, Pira says. And there's also no way they can sell without guaranteed parking.

"We love this building," Pira says. "But the reality is, we've accepted the fact that we're going to go into foreclosure."

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Sarah Fenske
Contact: Sarah Fenske